W-League: DC United Women 2, Virginia Beach Piranhas 0
Okay, there’s no Washington Freedom any more and WPS just disbanded, but for the first time since 2008 you can get fresh-grilled hamburgers at the Soccerplex, so for me it’s a wash.
Well, not really, but coming to the ‘plex to see the resident team play the Virginia Beach Piranhas, one of the old W-League Freedom’s frequent opponents, was as much a blast from the past as the cheeseburgers. The Freedom usually handled them easily (in 2010 the Freedom Futures won 5-0), but this proved to be a tougher challenge, though the DC United Women eventually prevailed on the strength of two goals from Mikaela Howell.
The challenge was greater due to several fleet-footed players that the Piranhas added this year to upgrade their attack: forwards Rasheeda Ansari and Esther Anyanwu and midfielder Linda Chukwuji, the latter two from Nigeria by way of Georgia Perimeter College (and recruited sight-unseen by head coach Wendy Waddell). Their speed repeatedly overwhelmed DCU’s backline, which was missing captain Marisa Abegg. In the 16th minute Chukwuji blew past left back Molly Menchel, herself no slouch in the speed department, but sent her shot right to goalkeeper Didi Haracic. Five minutes later Ansari blew past the line on the other side, but her cross was way too strong and flew harmlessly over the box. Still, the threat was there for the full 90 minutes. On top of that, the Piranhas were playing a very physical game with far more contact and challenges than you normally see at this level.
The game seemed to hang in the balance for the first half-hour or more: would the Piranhas score on a breakaway, or would one of United’s more patient buildups yield a goal? It proved to be the latter, as in the 36th minute right back Katie Menzie brought the ball forward and then slid it over to Mikaela Howell, who was at the top right corner of the box with her back to the goal. She spun, got some daylight past a defender, and sent a left-footed shot into the upper left corner to break the deadlock.
DC held on for the rest of the half and stepped up their game in the second half. “We were holding the ball too long. We were playing too slow,” head coach Mike Jorden said about the first half. “We changed our system in the second half and got a little bit more possession. Should probably have finished a couple more goals.” They had possibly their best chance of the match in the 54th minute, as Ashley Herndon got free behind the defense with only the goalkeeper to beat but her careful shot went just outside the right post as the two players collided.
The goal that put the game pretty much out of reach came in the 60th minute as midfielder Sarah Sample brought in the ball from the right close enough to require the goalkeeper’s attention. She then lobbed the ball over to Hayley Siegel near the far post, who could have taken a shot herself but instead sent the ball back in to Howell, who had a better angle. Howell, in traffic but with the goalkeeper out of position, one-touched the ball into the net.
Both coaches expressed satisfaction with the match. “We’ve only been together not even a week,” said Waddell. “So it’s a good start for not being together that long.”
“They put us under a lot of pressure, and they were very physical,” said Jorden. “It was a good test for us the first time out.”
Missing players: Marisa Abegg was away for personal reasons. Joanna Lohman and Lianne Sanderson can’t play for the team until 30 days have elapsed since their release from their prior team, RCD Espanyol of the Spanish women’s league. And Becky Sauerbrunn is of course up with the national team.
Next match: The DC United Women host cross-river rivals the Northern Virginia Majestics, Sunday, May 27th, at 7:45 pm. (Note the time change from the original schedule.) You won’t be seeing any coverage from me, though, as I’m visiting a friend in Boston that weekend. But that does give me the opportunity to report on the WPSL-Elite marquee matchup between the Western New York Flash and the Boston Breakers.
WPSL-Elite: New England Mutiny 4, ASA Chesapeake Charge 2
After hosting the Boston Breakers, the Charge’s schedule has them with four straight away matches, playing the three Elite teams without WPS heritage followed by the Chicago Red Stars before finally returning home in mid-June. So we’ll see where the Charge end up in the overall pecking order.
This initial result has to be a little disappointing, though head coach Albert Oni noted (see interview embedded below) that his team is still coming together: “We’re a young team, and we just started training May 1. We haven’t been together very long, and every day new players are showing up. Today I had two or three new players joining the team for the first time because they’re just completing their exams and things like that.” The Charge were also without their marquee player and most dangerous attacker, former US national teamer Christine Nairn.
As with the Boston match, the Charge found themselves down early. Mutiny midfielder Jenny Maurer took a shot from 30 yards out in the 17th minute that bent inside the upper 90, escaping starting goalkeeper Lyndse Hokanson. Seven minutes later forward Tiya Gallegos put a corner kick ball into the net to give the Mutiny a 2-0 lead.
Again as with the Breakers match, Chesapeake played their opponents evenly the rest of the way but were unable to overcome the deficit. Defender Shannon Collins got the team back into the game with a 27th minute goal off a failed corner kick clearance, the first Charge goal of the season. Oni swapped out goalkeepers with the match about a third gone, putting Erin Quinn in for Hokanson. Quinn ended up with a baptism of fire as she had to face a penalty kick only a minute after she entered. Midfielder Riley Houle of the Mutiny was fouled in the box and scored the game-winner on the ensuing PK.
The Charge came out strong to start the second half and scored again four minutes in as midfielder Sophia Reid chipped Mutiny goalkeeper Alexa Gaul from the left corner of the box to bring Chesapeake within one. The Mutiny would rebound and control possession the rest of the way, though in the 80th minute the visitors had a chance to tie things up as forward Marisa Kresge briefly had an open look off a long ball at the top of the box, but Gaul tracked her down and made a huge save.
Becca Mays would ice the game for the Mutiny in second-half stoppage time.
Oni was philosophical about the result: “I like challenges. … We had a choice to stay in the other league and possibly play for the title, but we come in here knowing that we would be a young team that has challenges ahead of them, but we are all looking forward to the challenge, and we invite the challenge. … I don’t want to be the king of something and then find out later on that there’s a whole ‘nother level above what we had. Here, this is the cream of the crop.”
Full post-game interview with head coach Albert Oni, courtesy of the New England Mutiny:
Next match: The Charge next play the Philadelphia Fever on Sunday, May 27, at 7:30 pm, in Silver Eagle Stadium, Egg Harbor Township High School, NJ. They don’t return home until Saturday, June 16, at 2 pm, when they take on the Western New York Flash at Old Mill High School in Millersville, MD.
WPSL: Penn Legacy Inferno 3, Maryland Capitols FC 1
The Capitols headed to Lancaster County, PA, for their inaugural WPSL match and started off well, with Diana Barrera scoring the first-ever Capitols regular-season goal in the tenth minute as she collected a clearance and sent it off the post and into the net. Unfortunately, the rest of the match was all to their division rivals, who scored three unanswered goals, the first off a defensive blunder that if not an “own goal” was certainly an “own assist”, as defender Brieanna Yon effectively handed the ball to an Inferno forward just outside the box, who had little trouble getting around surprised goalkeeper Hanit Schwarz for an easy score.
With a blustery wind in their faces during the second half, Maryland would give up two more goals.
Head coach David Jones was, unsurprisingly, not very happy with the result. “We looked second in most areas of the field today, I know this team is capable of better performances and all teams have a bad day, I just hope that was ours today and got it out the way. I believe in all these players and there were a few good performances in an overall disappointing day especially after all the buildup and work that’s gone into getting us to this stage.”
Next match: The Maryland Capitols FC next play the FCW Elite on Sunday, June 3, at 6 pm. Their home opener is on Wednesday, June 6, vs. the Tidewater Sharks at 7.30 pm at Marvin F. Wilson Stadium, Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex, Landover, MD.
Players of the Week
The members of the Maryland Women’s Soccer Journalists Association (MWSJA) were only able to cover the one home match in person and so believe it would be unfair either to honor only players from that match or to honor players from other matches based on hearsay. However, we have no qualms about naming Mikaela Howell overall Player of the Week for her two-goal performance that included a highlight-reel turn-shoot-score goal from 16 yards out.
Charge head coach Albert Oni named as his best players on the night midfielder Riley Barger and substitute goalkeeper Erin Quinn, while David Jones of the Capitols picked out goalscorer Diana Barrera, first half goalkeeper Hanit Schwarz, and substitute midfielder Michelle Procaccini. Jorden of DC United mentioned midfielder Hayley Siegel, who got the assist on the second goal, forward Ashley Herndon, midfielder/defender Holly King, and left flank defender Molly Menchel.